Life term proposed for pain physician

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted March 28, 2005

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Federal prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Leonard D. Wexler to send pain physician William E. Hurwitz, MD, to prison for the rest of his life. Wexler is scheduled to announce his decision April 14.

In December 2004, a jury found Dr. Hurwitz guilty on 50 of 62 charges related to his prescribing of pain medications. Prosecutors said he illegally prescribed narcotic pain medication, causing the death of one patient and seriously injuring two others.

Some pain medicine specialists said the request would boost the current "chilling effect" from law enforcement investigations into physician opioid-prescribing practices.

Because Dr. Hurwitz's pain practice was so large and he was willing to prescribe larger amounts of opioids than most physicians, American Academy of Pain Medicine President Scott Fishman, MD, said he would "caution any physician from extrapolating Dr. Hurwitz's case to their own."

Nevertheless, Dr. Fishman added that Dr. Hurwitz's case raises precedent-setting questions about criminalizing medical practice issues that are usually under the jurisdiction of state licensing boards.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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